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Media Release – Promising outcomes from Filing Season for Individuals

Media Release – Promising outcomes from Filing Season for Individuals

13 December 2021 – The Commissioner for the South African Revenue Service (SARS), Mr Edward Kieswetter has thanked all individual non-provisional taxpayers who filed their income tax returns by the extended deadline of 2 December 2021. He also extended similar gratitude to all intermediaries and stakeholders who support the strengthening of the tax ecosystem.

“Such voluntary compliance reinforces our belief that most taxpayers want to do the right thing and meet their legal obligations. We are working very hard to make this important task easy and simple by providing clarity and certainty and whilst expanding online channels through which taxpayers can transact with our organization.

“Despite many challenges, including Covid-19 restrictions, load shedding and our own internal limitations, we are pleased that our strategic intent of promoting voluntary compliance is gradually gaining momentum as can be seen in the statistics and trends for this filing season which are very encouraging under the circumstances,” Mr Kieswetter added.

“This increase in voluntary compliance was made possible through a virtual filing season, which aimed to deal with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on taxpayers, our staff and other citizens.  Coincidentally, the shift towards a virtual tax filing season is directly aligned to our vision of building a smart, modern SARS that is trusted and admired.”

A summary of this results of year’s filing season for individuals shows that the virtual filing season is taking shape, and that our vision is becoming realisable. Over 4.3 million non-provisional tax returns were submitted to date. This is an increase of 46% over last year.

  • Of those, over 2.6 million were submitted via eFiling, an increase of 7%, with 523 659 returns submitted via the MobiApp, a 59% increase.
  • Over 306 000 returns were submitted via our branches, this is an encouraging 15% decrease. SARS agents assisted taxpayers through virtual appointments, or later in branches after they reopened on 16 August.
  • We also introduced an SMS service, which allowed taxpayers to book an appointment, request their tax number and check if they needed to submit a return.

At the launch of the filing season on 1 July, we made several commitments to taxpayers about what they could expect. I will review some of these commitments against what was achieved by the end of filing season on 2 December 2021.

  1. We committed SARS to expand the use of the auto-assessment service to more than 3 million taxpayers. This filing season SARS sent out 3.4 million auto assessments. Over 2.2 million taxpayers have accepted the auto assessment, with more than 1.5 million accepting without any changes. This represents a 74% acceptance rate of a new service offering. Regrettably, more than 630 000 taxpayers neither accepted nor edited their returns. SARS will be sending estimated assessments, to taxpayers that have not taken any action.
  2. We undertook to provide at least 8 out of every 10 taxpayers with an assessment outcome in under 5 seconds. This year 93% of assessments were issued in under 5 seconds. Last year it was 85%.
  3. We also committed to pay at least 7 out of every 10 taxpayers their refund if it is due, within 72 hours. This year SARS paid out refunds to 86% of taxpayers within 72 hours. Last year, 77.38% of refunds were paid within 72 hours. In all, we paid out more than R17 billion in refunds. The average refund was R11000.
  4. We undertook to conclude 7 out of every 10 verification audits within 21 days. We have missed this target of 70%, reaching only 67% of audits completed in this time-frame. Last year, we concluded 62% of audits within 21 working days, so there has been an increase.

Let me also add the following service information to indicate the volumes that SARS had to deal with this year. There were 1 million eBooking appointments made, before and after the branches opened, 1,6m taxpayers calls were answered by our Contact Centre agents, 2 million Help-You-eFile calls were made to the Contact Centre and there were over 500 000 walk-ins to the branches (taxpayers who did not have an appointment).

Despite the measurable progress, the organisation will have to work to continually improve our service culture and standards, expand taxpayer education offerings, and promote the online platforms and digital offerings we have created to interact with taxpayers, among other things.

Taxpayers must note that as previously announced, SARS will levy penalties from January 2022 where one of more returns are outstanding. Before the change in the legislation, SARS could only levy penalties where two or more returns were outstanding. Taxpayers are encouraged to submit all outstanding returns including those of previous years.

SARS has put in place channels to make it easy for taxpayers to comply and I urge all non-compliant taxpayers to comply and fulfil all outstanding obligations, and in that way contribute to entrenching the culture of voluntary compliance.

The Commissioner concluded by saying that, “Our progress in the rebuilding of SARS is slowly progressing. We are encouraged with the results so far, but will learn from the taxpayer experiences of this year, as well as our own mistakes, as we remain resolute in our efforts to modernise SARS.

“In pursuit of our strategic intent of voluntary compliance, it is important that we step up our efforts to provide certainty and clarity to taxpayers whilst working hard to make it easier to comply. At the same time our ability to detect and respond to non-compliance has shown marked improvement, but we must do more to deter and prosecute dishonest taxpayers and traders. These strategic objectives are implicit in our modernisation journey which increasingly will be built on a platform that augments human effort with data-driven insights and enabling technology,” the SARS Commissioner said.

For more information, please contact SARS at [email protected]

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